It was the “uproarious laughter.”
That is the one thing, more than anything else, seared into Christine Blasey Ford’s mind some 35 years later.
One young man on top of her, holding her down, clawing at her clothes, covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream. The other standing nearby. And the laughter.
“The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,” Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Her testimony Thursday was not just credible. It was devastating.
If Republicans hoped she would wither under the spotlight and her story would unravel under scrutiny, they saw just the opposite.
Where Sen. Orrin Hatch thought “that woman” was “mixed up,” she was firm that it was Brett Kavanaugh who assaulted her and tried to rape her: “100 percent."
She came forward reluctantly, (and, unfortunately, against her will, it appears) not wanting her family to have to go through the media siege, the political attacks, the death threats that drove them into hiding. That is not something someone with a political ax to grind does.
She asked again and again for an FBI investigation, which is not something a liar typically wants. Republicans, including the president, refused.
She wanted witnesses to be called — witnesses like Mark Judge, who was the other man in the room, and the individual who conducted her polygraph test. Again, not what one would expect from someone who is making it up. Republicans refused.
For his part, Kavanaugh was angry and defiant, as we all might be if we were accused of something we believed we did not do.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he bellowed. “You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”
Kavanaugh acknowledged liking beer, sometimes drinking excessively, sometimes throwing up, but adamantly denied having been at any type of gathering like the one Ford described or doing the things that Ford said he did. And he objected strenuously to the assault on his character, which he said has been immaculate.
Here’s the thing: Kavanaugh can be a great jurist and lawyer, a wonderful family man, a deeply religious person, a tremendous friend, a supreme mentor, a winning coach. And still have done exactly what Ford said he did.
Republicans on the committee kept poking at gaps in Ford’s story and her memory. Democrats did the same to Kavanaugh, suggesting he may have been blackout drunk.
It seems clear that one of them is lying or one of them misremembers. Whose memory is more likely to be faulty?
If I was asked about a casual high school get-together with friends, I probably wouldn’t remember it. But there are incidents that I’ll never forget, that are seared in my mind. That’s the way the brain works and Ford explained the science behind why some memories fade while traumatic memories are seared into the brain’s hippocampus.
We may never know the real truth, but there is a way to get closer. That would be to have the FBI interview those people who were there, not just about the night in question but about Kavanaugh’s behavior generally. And to interview the people Ford told about the alleged assault and attempt to answer some of the lingering questions, then report their findings to the committee.
Yes, there are statements from the witnesses denying such an event took place, but a statement and an interview by professional investigators are very different things.
At one point in the hearing Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., challenged Kavanaugh, if he is confident of his innocence, to request an investigation in order to clear his name. Kavanaugh refused.
An angry Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., got animated, accusing Democrats of trying to drag it out until after the election, hoping they could retake the Senate and block Kavanaugh, presumably by using the same tactics Republicans used to block the nomination of Merrick Garland.
This week, Anita Hill, who went through a similar inquisition 27 years ago, spoke at the University of Utah recalling her experience before many of the same senators, including Hatch.
“We have seen and heard many of these same answers for the women coming forward now. … You will hear the senators say things like, ‘This is just a he-said, she-said situation’ and ‘You can’t know the truth,’” Hill said. “Well, they’re setting it up to be that again.”
Hill was prophetic.
What we saw play out Thursday was, as expected, all about politics and partisanship. Republican Senators will never know the truth and it doesn’t matter, because they don’t care about the truth — they care about getting Kavanaugh confirmed as quickly as possible.
And they probably will.